E Pluribus Screw ‘Em

By Jack  Canfora

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function”

~ F. Scott Fitzgerald*

First the good news: this is NOT a political post. In no way is it a political post; this simply isn’t the place for that. In a perfect world, there’d actually be no place for political posts, which would leave far more space for posts about why and how you should bring me foods I like. Maybe one day we’ll get there. Maybe one day.

But now, the bad news: this post is totally about politics. At least in the sense that it will discuss politicians, political parties, and specific political issue. So, I guess if you really want to stretch it, I could see how some people might jump to the snap conclusion (or snap and then jump, but that feels somehow less organic. What do I know? I’m not very good at either) that it might be a political post. Sorta. Ish.

But this is, as I think I quite forcefully asserted at this post’s outset (just scroll back to the top if you’ve forgotten) NOT A POLITCAL POST. It’s a post about something even worse: Politics’ even uglier and less well-behaved sibling, Tribalism.

First, a little background: Liz Cheney, a super conservative Republican congresswoman from Wyoming, has lost her committee seat, and essentially her chance at any political clout in the near future, because she refused to deny both demonstrable crimes and had a grating tendency to face reality. This isn’t an anti-conservative or GOP screed. In fact, even though I lean quite left in both thought and gait, I am here to mourn the loss of them both.Today is a great day for Democrats. It is also a terrible day for Democracy.

If you were to bring up 100 socio-political issues, my guess is Liz Cheney and I would disagree violently on 97 of them, only strongly disagree on one, and agree on two (one of them being LGBTQ rights). The other issue we agree on, and it’s not a small one, is the continuation of Madisonian Democracy, and the rule of law.

Liz Cheney represents, in terms of political policy, pretty much everything I’d spend a lifetime fighting against. But, as baffled and angered as I was by Trump’s electoral victory in 2016, it never occurred to me to attack the U.S. Capitol, maim and murder Capitol police officers, and erect a rudimentary gallows to hang the Vice President (although, in fairness, no one believes that I could even begin to figure out how to). 

As her fellow Republicans cravenly defend the lie that Trump had the election stolen from him (despite the Trump led Justice Department finding no such evidence, none of Trump’s lawyers willing to officially make such a claim in court, the derisive dismissal of such claims from all judges, many whom Republican and Trump-appointed, and Trump lickspittle AG William Barr denying any evidence of election fraud), Liz Cheney has the temerity to say aloud that Trump lost the election. 

Perhaps more upsetting (though no more threatening to the democratic norms America has prided itself on), she is unwilling to allow the Trump- fueled attack on the American Capitol, the literal center of American Democracy, to go unpunished. Many Republicans, some of whom were personally threatened with their actual deaths on January 6th, are willing to overlook that to keep their political careers alive. And they’re downright blithe about trading the lives of Democrats for their own political advancement. 

They missed a chance – a critical opportunity that history is already damning them for – to do what they were elected to do: lead. The crystal ball of History’s View is often blurry at best. It has seldom been more hi-def than on the afternoon of January 6th, 2021. 

Most of these Republicans will privately express disgust at Trump and his cult, including his biggest public GOP supporter (read:sycophant), Kevin McCarthy, who on January 7th, condemned Trump, only to later weasel his way out of his words with a brashness that would make Orwell weep or Kin Jung Un laugh. Or the other way around. Instead, MCarthy et al are bending, often without even waiting to be leaned on, to the violent whims and authoritarian nature of Trump’s cult of anti-Personality. 

Let’s be clear: Trumpism has essentially nothing to do with Conservative philosophy (most of which I personally disagree with). I can find nothing of the tenets of Edmund Burke, or Kirk, let alone Ronald Reagan. “But tax cuts!” I can hear some people argue. True. But never, according to bedrock conservative principles, at the expense of soaring deficits. “Limited government!” I suppose, but not to libertarian extremes. Eisenhower received little flack from the Grand Old Party when he established the interstate highway system, and he also had the wisdom to enforce desegregated schools. And the Party of Lincoln (Oy. Please.) stood behind that ultimate Lefty Richard Nixon when he created the EPA, as well as signing the Clean Air and Water acts.

This iteration of the Republican Party has no values. I mean this quite literally. The 2016 GOP convention actually didn’t have an official platform. I believe that’s a first for any party, ever. 

And for what? For whom? For a man (biologically speaking) who won the electoral college in 2016, despite losing the popular vote, and proceeded to lose the House, his re-election bid, (electorally and popularly), and then the Senate. 

So, as a Democrat, Liz Cheney’s Hester Prynn moment from the GOP is great political capital. It gains Republicans no new votes, and likely loses them some. Certainly it makes it easier to paint them for what they are: cultists cynically catering to the lunatic fringe that has managed to seize the reins of their once mighty, principled party. Yes, principled. Just because the party largely embraced principles I didn’t doesn’t make them any less principled. 

To my liberal friends: we need to listen to Fitzgerald (of course we should; we always should). We can dislike Liz Cheney’s politics, be appalled by her policies, and work to defeat her, but still respect her fidelity to her code. A code that overlaps, I hope, with all of ours. Adherence to history and fidelity of law. 

The founders came up with the motto for America of “E Pluribus Unum.” “Out of Many, One.” (Not very catchy as mottos go, but more dignified than what might be voted in today: “Ask About Our Kick Ass Water Parks!”) “Out of Many, One “ represents the precise opposite of the rampant tribalism that’s afflicted much of not only America, but Europe as well. 

This tribalism, currently running the GOP, but make no mistake, my left-leaning friends, finding equal purchase among sectors of the “Woke,” is the living heartbeat of anti-democratic values. Like her ethos or loathe it, to not admire what Liz Cheney has done is to slide into tribalism. 

Which is why, as a lifelong Democrat, today is a sad one. 

* Let’s be clear: I’m making no claims to having a first-class mind. Anyone who’s tried to watch me build anything from IKEA or wrap a birthday present will attest to that.

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9 thoughts on “E Pluribus Screw ‘Em

  1. I sobbed silently to myself this morning when NPR aired the speech Liz Cheney delivered last night to Congress. “Ignoring the lie emboldens the liar.” To do what she did, in saying that the election was not rigged, and to go down with the ship that is a last Bastian of reality, is true and simple courage. To say she is brave in strange defiance of the opposition is not even an understatement. To know that this happened, I know that there is hope for the future of the Republican party. It may take a few more turns but it will get better. This coming from a Bernie-loving registered Independent.

  2. Speaking from a moderate, but definite “right” leaning perspective, I simply find it amusing that Liz Cheney is being held up as a symbol of rational thought in the Republican Party. I guess the only qualification for a “rational” Republican is now merely that one doesn’t exist in a state of utter paranoid hallucination. Just for the record, the Republican Party doesn’t represent conservatism anymore. It’s become something else entirely, probably better associated with conspiracy theories, Flat-Earthers and our Lizard People overlords.

    The US political system desperately needs to re-thought in a manner that would allow for some more moderate (and rational) voices to be heard. In four years, I suspect that things will inevitably be bad enough that no Democrat will have any chance. And that said, I’d hate to think that the only alternative our “democracy” would have to offer is one of those Lizard People.

  3. Whoa Jack, you little tornado of justice! This kinda triggered my ADD, and so first I need to know what is your favorite pizza, where is the tribe of Cheney, and why can I only think of the word ‘Ella’ when I see ‘Fitzgerald’? Having problems here, and wondering where that Haiku is.
    So (breathing)… Cheney does indeed have bravery to stick to her literal guns, and I applaud that. I’m kind of party neutral, left center, no lying no cheating kind of base, and so I’m usually disappointed with most politicians. Whenever one does something, anything, that smacks of Truth and maybe even Justice, then that’s my American Way, and I revel quietly in my corner.
    But tribalism? I’m fuzzy on what her tribe is, really. Lightness up the line here, had a good point about the GOP not representing actual conservatism anymore. And I’m not sure where Democrats actually lie within their definitions either. So, I think I’ll stew on this for a while, and then eat chocolate and feel better.

    1. Chocolate is always good. Cheney isn’t the one resorting to tribalism; she’s relying on a political philosophy. The thesis (hardly original) is that the Right (and to slightly lesser extent, the Left) have abandoned coherent poetical philosophy in favor of tribalism. Both have their shibboleths – with the Right, it’s MAGA, the Left, it’s a menu of acceptable and unacceptable terms. A core component of tribalism is that it has no real interest in working with other “tribes,” only in asserting the purity of their tribal bona fides. This is how democracy dies. I DID write some haikus – they were God awful, but will share one or two anon.

  4. I completely agree with everything in your well written post. When I heard that they had chosen a loudly shouted Yay/Nay vote instead of a ballot, I was horrified. Bully boy tactics won again. Even when I lived in Europe, I was a leftie because I like a more equitable society. It all reminds me of Gordon Gekko – Greed is not good no matter how loudly you shout it.

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